General

The evolution of Robo advice

By Josh Miszk, CFA, CFP

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Alongside the rapid growth of the online wealth management space is the speed with which firms are evolving to investors’ demands.

Some of the first online investment managers in Canada have evolved their initial investing models to include services like financial planning, advisory firm partnerships, and now, a platform offering portfolios from multiple management firms.

One of the challenges in evaluating cost, performance, and reputation across multiple “robo-advice” platforms is looking at their similarities and differences to get a real sense of how each portfolio compares. In addition, many firms are relatively new and, while investors like the experience of working with an online advisor, they’re restricted to portfolios designed solely by the same firm they feel provides that great experience.

A simple way of choosing the right portfolio

In response to the demand for greater choice, we’ve created a platform that offers clients multiple portfolio options created by two of the largest and most reputable institutional money managers in the industry; BlackRock and Vanguard. In working with these two firms, we are not only leveraging the quality of their investment products, but also their expertise in providing great portfolio solutions.

This addition will allow potential clients to compare and select portfolios based on our recommendations for them, as well as the elements of a portfolio they value most, like performance, asset allocation, and cost.

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Be the first line of defense: top tips to prevent financial fraud

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By Brent Reynolds, Capital One

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

As social media becomes ever prevalent in our lives, we have become increasingly accustomed to sharing personal details with friends, family and coworkers. While there’s certainly no harm in sharing vacation details or family photos with your network, this culture of sharing can lead to troubling consequences when it extends to personal financial information.

In the spirit of Fraud Prevention Month – an educational campaign each March that encourages Canadians to recognize and reject fraud – I’d like to offer a few tips to help empower Canadians to be their own first line of defense.

Protect your personal details

Our recent fraud prevention study found 47% of Canadians have shared their credit card number over the phone, via email or through the mail. One in five Canadians (22%) also admit to sharing their banking information via email, where the risk of phishing is high.

When it comes to sharing your personal information, always be cautious. Whether it’s over the phone, in person, through the mail or on the Internet, always know who you are sharing your personal or financial information with and why. If a call or email seems questionable, end the communication and visit the company’s secure website to contact them directly.

Select a strong PIN and protect it

While it may seem harmless to share your PIN with family members (in fact, 40% of Canadians admit to doing it), a PIN should never be shared with anyone. Select a secure and difficult-to-guess PIN that isn’t based on personal information like a birthday, address, SIN number or telephone number. Make sure you choose a unique PIN for each card. And, when accessing an ATM or paying with your card, be aware of who is around you and cover the keypad when you enter your PIN. Finally, if you’re going to store your PIN somewhere, make sure you choose a secure location and never write it on or store it near your card.

Take advantage of any features your card issuer offers

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In pursuit of Boomer happiness

Mike Drak and Heather Reisman

I was at my local Indigo bookstore the other weekend and look at who happened to stop by.

I’m really starting to believe in this karma thing as more and more chance encounters like this are happening to me since writing the book.

Through this chance meeting I had the chance to talk to Heather about Victory Lap Retirement and my concern that we had miscategorized the book by putting it into the personal finance/retirement section. Heather was kind enough to share her thoughts and now I’m convinced that our book should be in the self improvement section.

Not really a retirement book

Victory Lap Retirement is really not a book about retirement; in fact we make a strong case about the benefits of not retiring in the traditional sense. It really is a book about lifestyle design with the goal of helping people create their own low-stress healthy fulfilling lifestyle, one based on their own unique needs and wants. We know that through proper planning and intentional living, we can substantially improve the quality of our remaining years, which is not a bad way to go out when you think about it.

Stress is the main risk in our eyes and prolonged exposure to stress can really mess a person up and in some cases actually kill them. I don’t know if it’s just me but I’m seeing more evidence of this each and every day; examples seems to be everywhere. Is it just me or are you seeing it as well?

We discussed the role of stress in a recent blog post called “The Big Dip.”

Stress inversely correlated with Happiness

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Is it worth it to skip a Mortgage payment?

By Alyssa Furtado, RateHub.ca

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Skipping a mortgage payment can seem like a good option, especially in an emergency if you don’t have a rainy day fund or savings to dip into. If you lose your job, your car breaks down, or you have any other type of unexpected expense, the option to skip a mortgage payment may look enticing. But is it worth it?

Some mortgage lenders allow you to skip a payment. Here’s what you need to know before deciding whether or not you should choose that option.

What does skipping really mean?

Sounds like a simple fix on a month when everything’s gone south, right? Not so fast. When you skip a payment, you’re not just pushing the expense back a month, you’re still racking up interest.

On a day-to-day basis, it looks like a simple monthly payment. But your mortgage payment actually has two component parts: The principal (the actual payment of the debt itself) and the interest. You don’t pay the principal, but your mortgage lender still charges you interest.

By skipping a month, you lose the chance to pay down the principal and you add on that month’s interest, which gets added to the total amount left on your mortgage.

You wind up with a higher mortgage rather than the number staying the same. The skip doesn’t freeze time. Any scenario where you add more interest should be looked at as borrowing more money.

Looking years down the line, the interest you pay after skipping will be even higher since your loan itself becomes larger. The increase won’t be huge, but if you just took on a mortgage with a 25-year amortization period, the additional interest will add up over time. If you’re close to paying off your mortgage, the interest costs won’t be as high.

Am I allowed to skip?

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Retired Money: How tax filing changes in Semi-Retirement

Here is my latest MoneySense Retired Money column: Tax filing advice for retirees.

It relates my personal experience of filing this year’s tax returns for the 2016 calendar year.

There is quite a difference between the key tax documents when you’re a full-time employee and the ones you receive when you’re fully retired. And in semi-retirement, it’s an interesting combination of both. Instead of T-4 slips from full-time employers, and RRSP receipts that help you minimize the high tax rates of employment, the semi-retiree now may be receiving T4A slips that tell you (and the Government) how much pension income you received in the prior calendar year and how much (if any) tax was withheld at source.

And the mirror image of the RRSP receipt in retirement or semi-retirement is the T4RSP slip, which tells you how much money you withdrew from your RRSP and how much (if any) tax was withheld at source.

The article also links to an earlier Retired Money column on “Topping up to Bracket,” which describes how you really want if at all possible to tap into the roughly $20,000 “Tax-free” zone made up of the Basic Personal Amount ($11,474 in 2016, which rises to $11,635 in 2017), another $2,000 for the Pension Credit and for those who are 65, the $7,125 Age Credit.

Age Credit escapes the axe … for now

As I noted in my Budget blog last night and this morning, despite fears that the Age Credit might be the victim of the Liberal zeal to jettison costly tax credits, evidently the fear of offending the 5.2 million seniors affected stayed the hand of Finance Minister Bill Morneau. While it is income-tested, for modest-income seniors I view the Age Credit as essentially making Old Age Security (OAS) benefits tax-free, assuming they are commenced also at the magical age 65. Continue Reading…